The application of human stem cell technology offers theoretically a great potential to treat various human diseases. However, to achieve this goal a large number of scientific issues remain to be solved. Cell surface carbohydrate antigens are involved in a number of biomedical phenomena that are important in clinical applications of stem cells, such as cell differentiation and immune reactivity. Due to their cell surface localization, carbohydrate epitopes are ideally suited for characterization of human pluripotent stem cells. Amongst the most commonly used markers to identify human pluripotent stem cells are the globo-series glycosphingolipids SSEA-3 and SSEA-4. However, our knowledge regarding human pluripotent stem cell glycosphingolipid expression was until recently mainly based on immunological assays of intact cells due to the very limited amounts of cell material available. In recent years the knowledge regarding glycosphingolipids in human embryonic stem cells has been extended by biochemical studies, which is the focus of this review. In addition, the distribution of the human pluripotent stem cell glycosphingolipids in human tissues, and glycosphingolipid changes during human stem cell differentiation, are discussed.